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Johns Hopkins University police bill clears another hurdle in Maryland General Assembly, heads to state Senate

Johns Hopkins University campus security guards at the intersection of 33rd and St. Paul streets on Oct. 23, 2018, outside the Barnes and Noble campus bookstore.
Johns Hopkins University campus security guards at the intersection of 33rd and St. Paul streets on Oct. 23, 2018, outside the Barnes and Noble campus bookstore. (Amy Davis / The Baltimore Sun)

A bill that would allow the Johns Hopkins University to establish a private police force in Baltimore cleared another hurdle Friday in the Maryland General Assembly.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 9-1 to advance the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

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Neither of Baltimore’s senators on the committee supported the bill: Sen. Jill P. Carter voted “no” and Sen. Mary Washington had to leave the voting session early for a family matter and was excused from voting. Carter and Washington voted against the bill Thursday during a meeting of the city’s senators.

The bill has been a major issue for Baltimore’s delegation this legislative session. It would allow the private university to have its own armed police force of about 100 officers.

The bill also requires the state to provide $3.5 million for city youth programs, $1 million for the YouthWorks summer job program and $10 million for community development projects. Hopkins would be required to establish at least one Police Athletic League center in the city.

Carter and Washington expressed frustration before Friday’s vote as they attempted to change the bill, but Chairman Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, and other members of the committee were not receptive to their amendments.

Zirkin said they could offer amendments to the full Senate.

Washington warned that the bill would set a precedent for other private companies or organizations that might want their own police forces.

“We need to think about what precedent we are setting, should another private entity request this going forward,” she said.

Washington, who has part of the university’s Homewood academic campus in her district, said she wasn’t trying to slow the bill down, but make it better. However, she couldn’t even get committee members to agree to change the title of the bill.

Carter said that she and Washington have not had a fair chance of getting their proposed amendments added. She suggested the bill was being rushed.

“I’m profoundly disappointed in the decision that we have to move this so quickly,” she said.

The Senate will consider the bill next week.

Meanwhile, Del. Cheryl Glenn, an East Baltimore Democrat, said she would take the amended version of the bill Tuesday to the city’s House delegation.

Glenn, who is chairwoman of the delegation, said the voting session on the bill would be held in a room near the House of Delegates chamber immediately following the morning House floor session.

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